All the news for Sunday 7 February 2016
India open campaign against Bangladesh in hockey opener
GUWAHATI: Seeking to end their gold medal drought in the last two editions, Indian men's hockey team begins its campaign in the 12th South Asian Games against minnows Bangladesh here on Sunday.
India have fielded a second string team under Mandeep Antil's captaincy as most of the senior players are featuring in the ongoing and lucrative Hockey India League but they should not face any problem in beating Bangladesh ranked 22 places below them at 29th at the FIH charts.
But the home side, ranked seventh in the world, would get a chance to see how the team, mainly made up of junior players, would perform under match situations ahead of the marquee clash against arch-rivals Pakistan on Monday.
The Indian team, which also has experienced midfielder Gurbaj Singh, named after serving a suspension period of nine months, would look to implement the plans and tactics as these of players have not played together often in a competitive match.
Talking about tomorrow's match, Gurbaj said his team will not take any side lightly and will play their natural game.
"We cannot take any team lightly. In any sport an opposition is an opposition and we are concerned of how good we play irrespective of the opposition. Against Bangladesh, we can look how to implement our plans and tactics on the field. The most important thing in any match is whether we are able to implement the plans chalked out by our coach," he said.
He said the home side would look to break Pakistan's gold-winning run in the Games but tomorrow they would just focus on Bangladesh.
"Definitely, we would want to beat Pakistan and win the gold for the country. But we cannot see ahead for the match against Pakistan. Tomorrow, our focus would be against Pakistan. After tomorrow's match, we would thinking about Pakistan," he added.
Pakistan are seeking a hat-trick of titles as they had won the gold in the 2006 and 2010 editions of the Games, both times beating India in the final. India had won gold in the 1995 edition of the Games at then Madras.
Ironically, in both the 2006 and 2010 editions, India had beaten Pakistan in the group matches before losing in the summit clash. It was a 2-0 result in favour of India in the group stage in 2006 before Paksitan won the final 3-2. The same happened in 2010, when India got a 5-1 win in the group stage before losing 3-4 in the penalty shootout in the final.
The arch-rivals are also meeting for the first time in an international match after that ugly incident during the 2014 Champions Trophy semifinal match in Bhubeneswar which Pakistan won 4-3 in a thriller.
Two Pakistani players were suspended and one reprimanded for making obscene gestures after the match and Hockey India had threatened to severe all hockey ties with Pakistan unless they issued an apology.
Pakistan had named a strong 16-member team with many senior players under the captaincy of experienced defender Mohammad Irfan.
In women's hockey, favourites India take on Nepal in their first match tomorrow and a win will virtually put them in the final as there are only three teams in the competition. The other team is Sri Lanka.
Having qualified for the Olympics after a gap of 36 years, the women's team would look to put up an impressive show and bag the gold.
India have named a strong 18-member squad with many senior players in it under the captaincy of Ritu Rani.
Neil Hawgood, chief coach of the women's team, had said that the SAG was of key importance in the scheme of things as the team needs to play as many international games as possible ahead of the Olympics and to try out new players to give a wider spread of talent to choose from for the Rio Games.
The Times of India
I have left behind disappointment of suspension: Gurbaj
GUWAHATI: The disappointment of serving a suspension behind him, veteran Indian midfielder Gurbaj Singh said he is eyeing a fresh start to his career by playing a crucial role in the hockey team's bid for a gold in the 12th South Asian Games.
Gurbaj was suspended for nine months in August last year on charges of indulging in groupism and creating disharmony within the team during the Hockey World League Semi-Finals in Antwerp, Belgium. Former India midfielder Jude Felix, a part of the coaching staff then, had levelled the charges against Gurbaj in his report submitted to HI.
Gurbaj, the senior-most and the most experienced in the current squad in the ongoing South Asian Games, said he wants to look ahead rather than going back to the past.
"I have moved ahead and the past incidents and disappointments are history now. I am not looking back and now I want to perform well for the country. I have always given my best for the country in my career and I will do the same here also," Gurbaj said ahead of India's opening match against minnows Bangladesh.
"I have no ill-feelings and now my focus is on hockey and nothing else," he added.
After the Bangladesh match, India take on arch-rivals Pakistan, who are seeking their third straight title, on Monday and Gurbaj said his team-mates should keep a check on emotions to win the game.
"We should not get emotional against Pakistan. Doing that will spoil our chances and we should play our natural game thinking that we are playing against any other country. We should not put ourselves under pressure," said the midfielder.
The two sides are playing for the first time in an international match after the Pakistan team's unruly behaviour during the 2014 Champions Trophy semifinal match in Bhubaneswar.
Two Pakistani players were suspended and one reprimanded for making obscene gestures after the match and Hockey India had threatened to severe all ties with Pakistan unless they issued an apology.
Gurbaj, who played in that controversial match, said Monday's match against Pakistan should not be taken as a grudge match.
"We should not take it as revenge. We should just think of it as a game. Pakistan are a good game but we have the ability to do well and win the gold. We want to break the gold medal drought," he said.
India had named a second string team with many juniors in it as most of the senior players are featuring in the ongoing Hockey India League but Gurbaj felt the home team is still capable of going the final distance.
"It is a chance for the juniors to show that they can step up and do better. The current team has a good mix and we can do well," he added.
Gurbaj was non-committal when asked if he supports skipper Sardar Singh who had said that Pakistan should first apologise before their players are allowed to play in the HIL.
"It is a decision taken by the authorities," he simply said.
The Times of India
Dabang Mumbai stun Uttar Pradesh Wizards
With this win the Dabang Mumbai have 14 points in their kitty from six matches, and are currently placed at the bottom of the points tally.
Dabang Mumbai caused a 2-1 upset win over hosts Uttar Pradesh Wizards in the Hockey India League (HIL) match in Lucknow on Saturday.
This was the Mumbai side's second consecutive win after a series of losses, at the Major Dhyanchand Stadium. Fresh from their stunning win in their last game against Ranchi Rays, Mumbai started their campaign on an attacking note.
Dabang Mumbai played with a lot of confidence and their attacking game soon yielded results through a stunning field goal from Johan Bjorkman in the 8th minute giving the visitors an early lead of 2-0 over Uttar Pradesh Wizards. Wizards, who have so far lost all their home games, came back strongly after this early jolt with a series of well-planned attacks but David Harte made no mistakes in foiling all attempts from the hosts to score.
Uttar Pradesh Wizards kept pressing hard and were rewarded with a penalty corner in the 14th minute, which was duly converted by Argentine Gonzalo Peillat, helping the home team earn a much-needed goal in the match.
The Wizards trailed Dabang Mumbai by a goal with the score board reading 1-2 in the visitors' favour. The second quarter saw some spectacular moves from the forwards of both teams but some crucial saves from the goalkeepers at both the ends ensured that the first half got over with the score remaining unchanged at 1-2 in favour of Dabang Mumbai.
The second half began with Dabang Mumbai pressing hard to capitalise on their lead, but some brilliant interceptions from the Wizards defensive line coupled with outstanding saves from PR Sreejesh foiled all attempts from the visitors to score. Dabang Mumbai showcased top class defence as some strong attacks from the hosts were successfully defended by the visitors. The rest of the match saw a lot of close chances but the goalkeepers at both ends were in top form denying either sides a goal. This is the fourth consecutive loss for the Uttar Pradesh Wizards on their home turf.
With this win the Dabang Mumbai have 14 points in their kitty from six matches, and are currently placed at the bottom of the points tally.
Mumbai get the better of Wizards
Lucknow: Dabang Mumbai registered a 2-1 win over hosts Uttar Pradesh Wizards in the Hockey India League (HIL) match here today.
Fresh from their stunning win in their last game against Ranchi Rays, Mumbai started their campaign on an attacking note. They played with a lot of confidence and their attacking game soon yielded results when Johan Bjorkman hammered in a field goal in the 8th minute.
Wizards, who have so far lost all their home games, came back strongly with a series of well-planned attacks but goalie David Harte thwarted all their attempts. The hosts, who kept pressing hard, earned a penalty corner in the 14th minute, which was converted by Argentine Gonzalo Peillat.
The second quarter saw some spectacular moves from the forwards of both the teams but some crucial saves from the goalkeepers at either ends ensured the score remained the same.
In the third quarter, Mumbai pressed hard to increase the lead but some brilliant interceptions by the Wizards’ defenders and outstanding saves by PR Sreejesh foiled all such attempts.
In the remaining time, both teams created a lot of chances but neither managed to score. As a result, Mumbai walked away as winners from the game.
‘HIL removes fear psychosis in Indians’
Cedric D'Souza feels that the opportunity to coach top class athletes from different parts of the world, and also get first-hand experience of the country, is what attracts foreign coaches to HIL.
Delhi Waveriders coach Cedric D’Souza says the league has been a fantastic platform for the development of young Indian players
Hockey India League (HIL) teams coached by Indians emerged champion in two out of the three editions (Delhi Waveriders in 2014 and Ranchi Rays in 2015). Do team owners appoint foreign coaches in pursuit of success and at the expense of capable local talent?
I can’t really tell what team owners think, but Delhi Waveriders has persisted with Indian coaches since the inception of the league.
What made Waveriders click in 2014? The team was filled with big international names and Indian stars. How did you develop a working relationship? Any incident or example from HIL 2014 to support your explanation?
The key was gelling, bonding and respecting one another. We also had a sports scientist, Robin Van Ginkle, who strapped every player with a heart rate monitor and monitored their fitness, recovery and the physiological aspects of each player. Our rolling substitution is strictly based on science. However for tactical purposes, we may overrule the systems.
Foreign coaches, some with Olympic/World Cup podium finishes, are drawn to the league. From your interaction with them, is the opportunity to be involved in an event broadcast live on television or the money an attraction?
I think the foreign coaches are all renowned and well-established experts, so franchises have gone for their experience and availability. I don’t think the coaches are involved in the league because of money. It is the opportunity to coach top class athletes from different parts of the globe, probably in one of the most talked about and gruelling tournaments in the world, as well as get first-hand experience of our country, that attracts them.
What benefits do you see from the HIL for Indian players?
The HIL had been a fantastic platform for the exposure and development of our Indian players, especially the youngsters. Where would they get this invaluable exposure to so many of the world’s best, either as teammates or as opponents? The fear psychosis and inhibitions get eradicated when you rub shoulders or spar against the cream of hockey during this league.
City-based leagues (like HIL, ISL, IPL and PBL) allow Indian players (international and juniors) to mix with world stars. Any thoughts on its effect on Indian sport?
A very, very positive effect on youth development, the creation of future leaders and stars which augurs well for the overall growth of experienced players. These leagues are thereby enhancing and increasing the quality and quantity of the player base.
Greece, at the 2004 Athens Olympics, was your first assignment with a foreign nation. How was the experience?
Greece was a very difficult task as it had to prove it was good enough to participate at home by winning against Canada in a three-match qualifier. I took over the team in June 2003 and played the qualifier in eight months. It was a very tall order, but a fantastic experience with endless hours of hard work, and great teamwork. Lifelong bonds were created. Although we did not make it to the Olympics, I was there for an additional five years working on youth development. All in all, it was an absolutely amazing six years in total.
Your next foreign assignment is Austria.
Austria has appointed me as national coach for four years till the 2020 Olympic Games. Structure, exposure and raising the profile of the clubs are the main areas I will be focussing on. The key is to fine-tune and manage the entire process, which will be a joint effort with the club. The focus will naturally be the national team, but equal, if not more, importance will be put into youth development. My dream is to once again walk at the opening ceremony at Tokyo.
As a coach moving up the ranks here — Air India to Mumbai to India — did the coaching philosophy of anyone in particular inspire you? Please explain why.
Horst Wein was my guru. His tactical acumen, methodology, reading of the game and foresight of modern hockey culminated in him writing so many brilliant books. The first book that captured me totally and hooked me on to coaching was ‘The Science Of Hockey’. It was my coaching bible way back in the early 1980s. Horst and I eventually met in 1995, and since then we have become great friends. Apart from him, there was David Whitaker, Frank Murray, Paul Lissek, Bernhard Peters, Thomas Tichelman, Marcus Weise, Ric Charlesworth and Barry Dancer. They were contemporaries, and through interactions have influenced my coaching ethos.
FIH is okay with rule experiments in HIL — a field goal is equal to two. Do you have any ideas of your own in order to make field hockey spectacular and popular?
The key is to make hockey spectator-friendly by encouraging more goals. As more goals are scored, more the cheering, connect and interaction with the viewing public. With the implementation of a field goal being worth two goals, coaches have had to think out the box and adapt according to the match situation. Another aspect that can be looked into is reducing the number of players from 11 to 9.
HIL is played in various cities on a home-and-away format. Your thoughts on how the crowd brings out the best in Delhi Waveriders?
The biggest crowds are in Ranchi and Bhubaneswar. Crowds do lift the home team’s performance. The home and away games logically does nullify any undue advantages. It all depends on how much support the home crowd gives by thronging to the stadium. My take on this is that both Ranchi Rays and Kalinga Lancers get the biggest and most vociferous support. Waveriders do not have any favourite city as we try and focus on aspects that we can control and not on those that we cannot. With the shift from the National Stadium to Shivaji Stadium in New Delhi, I am hoping the connect with the spectators will be much better due to the close proximity. Their support will be most welcome.
Mumbai players have made their mark in HIL, adjusting to different coaches and teammates, foreign or Indian. Your view on Mumbai hockey…
I can’t speak much about Mumbai hockey as I have been out of the country for quite a few years. I can talk about Mumbai players who are with us at Delhi Waveriders. They (Yuvraj Walmiki & Amit Gowda) are hard-working, very adjusting and want to learn more with each passing day.
Surbiton go top after beating rivals
UOBHC 0 Surbiton 3 Investec Premier Division Surbiton celebrate Naomi Evans opener. Credit: Andy Smith
Surbiton leapfrogged the University of Birmingham into first place in the Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division with a convincing 3-0 away win on Saturday.
The students had been looking to go five points clear of the visitors, but fell behind in the first half to a goal from Naomi Evans before Sarah Page and Jo Hunter completed the win for Surbiton, who move to the top of the league by a point.
Canterbury consolidated third place with a 1-0 win at Bowdon Hightown, a first half goal from Anna Kolarova helping to keep the pressure on the top two for Canterbury whilst Bowdon stay one off the bottom in ninth.
Buckingham are still bottom but registered their first victory of the season at Reading. Abby Brant and Kathryn Nicolson scored their goals in a 2-1 win, whilst Leicester registered a 3-1 win at Holcombe with goals from Sally Whyte, Katie Long and Rachel Mack.
Elsewhere, East Grinstead twice came from behind to claim a 2-2 draw at home to Clifton, Zoe Burrell and Lucy Bairner hitting back for the hosts after Nicky Moss and Clare Thomas had put Clifton in the ascendency.
Investec Women’s Conference North
Wakefield swept to a 4-1 win at Springfields to maintain a five-point lead at the top of the Investec Women’s Conference North.
A hat-trick from Rosie Tootell and a goal from Heather Stafford were enough for the league leaders after Leanne Sharples had scored to equalise midway through the first half.
Brooklands Poynton remained in touch with the top after goals from Annabelle Watton and Sarah Newman helped them to a 2-1 victory against the University of Durham, whilst at the other end Whitley Bay and Tynemouth went down 2-0 away at Belper to remain rooted to the bottom.
Beeston picked up a 3-1 win at home to Liverpool Sefton, and Ben Rhydding claimed a comfortable 3-1 win against Loughborough Students.
Investec Women’s Conference West
Sutton Coldfield remain a point clear at the top of the Investec Women’s Conference West after they racked up a comfortable 3-0 win at Bristol Firebrands.
Jen Parkinson-Mills, Vicky Woolford and Charlene Mason got the goals for Sutton Coldfield who sit a point clear of Stourport at the top.
The second-placed side weathered a second half comeback from Swansea City to claim a 2-1 win, early goals from Sarah Cavendish and Lora Symonds proving enough despite Katrin Budd’s late goal for the visitors.
Elsewhere Oxford Hawks played out a 2-2 draw with Olton and West Warwicks, Isca beat Trojans 3-0 and Gloucester City triumphed 3-0 away at the University of Bristol.
Investec Women’s Conference East
Slough saw their lead at the top of the Investec Women’s Conference East cut to eight points after they could only manage a 0-0 draw away at Harleston Magpies.
That result means that second-placed St Albans move two points closer to the league leaders thanks to Sarah Embrey’s winning goal away at bottom side Ipswich.
Elsewhere in the division Wimbledon claimed a 3-1 win at home to Chelmsford to leave them sixth, Sevenoaks ran out 3-1 winners over Maidenhead and Cambridge City were 3-1 winners at home to Hampstead and Westminster.
Investec Women’s Hockey League (Saturday, February 6 2016):
Investec Women’s Premier Division: Bowdon 0, Canterbury 1; East Grinstead 2, Clifton 2; Holcombe 1, Leicester 3; Reading 1, Buckingham 2; University of Birmingham 0, Surbiton 3.
Investec Women's Conference East: Cambridge City 3, Hampstead and Westminster 1; Harleston Magpies 0, Slough 0; Ipswich 0, St. Albans 1; Maidenhead 1, Sevenoaks 3; Wimbledon 3, Chelmsford 1.
Investec Women's Conference North: Beeston 3, Liverpool Sefton 1; Belper 2, Whitley Bay and Tynemouth 0; Ben Rhydding 3, Loughborough Students 1; Brooklands Poynton 2, University of Durham 1; Springfields 1, Wakefield 4.
Investec Women's Conference West: Bristol Firebrands 0, Sutton Coldfield 3; Isca 3, Trojans 0; Oxford Hawks 2, Olton & West Warwicks 2; Stourport 2, Swansea City 1; University of Bristol 0, Gloucester City 3.
England Hockey Board Media release
Brooklands boost their play-off ambitions
Alan Forsyth, who scored twice for Surbiton. Credit: Tim Reder.
Surbiton’s challenge for top spot in the Men’s Hockey League Premier Division was dealt a blow after they lost 5-3 to Brooklands Manchester University on Saturday afternoon.
Surbiton went into the game level on points with leaders Holcombe but were soon a goal down after Ross Hall struck inside five minutes.
Just a minute later, Surbiton levelled through Dave Beckett but goals from Peter Friend, Aidan Khares and Peter Cornell made it 4-1 to Brooklands with time running out.
A brace from Alan Forsyth was too little too late for Surbiton and Cornell’s second of the game sealed a fine win.
Reading further strengthened their grip on a top four place by beating Beeston 3-2 away from home. Chris Newman gave Reading the lead before Harry Martin equalised through a penalty stroke.
Goals from Ben Boon and Simon Mantell made it 3-1 to Reading but Martin still had time to grab another consolation, once again tucking home a penalty stroke.
Holcombe opened up a three-point lead at the top of the table with a 3-1 win over Wimbledon.
Nick Catlin fired home to give Holcombe the lead on 18 minutes, and Stephane Vehrle-Smith made it 2-0 at half time with a 33rd minute penalty corner.
Chris Gregg halved the deficit for Wimbledon on 53 minutes, only for Vehrle-Smith to find the net in the final minute.
A goal in each half from Andy Piper helped East Grinstead to a 5-2 win over Cannock, despite being two-nil down early in the game.
Cannock’s Jayshaan Randhawa scored in the first minute and Thomas Morris doubled their lead two minutes later, but East Grinstead soon hit back.
Goals from Piper and Tony Wilson levelled at 2-2 at half time, only for Piper to add another and Simon Faulkner and Wes Jackson also scored second half goals to snatch victory.
Men's Conference West
Tom Watson was a man in top form as he scored all four of the University of Exeter’s goals in a 4-3 win over Chichester Priory Park.
Exeter were 4-0 up and cruising but a late fight back saw Chichester score three goals in the last 12 minutes.
The University of Birmingham closed the gap at the top with a win over Indian Gymkhana. Will Selfe scored the only goal of the game in the 40th minute. Cardiff have a game in hand over Birmingham and still hold a six point lead.
Men's Conference East
Southgate went top of the Men’s Conference East table after beating rivals Richmond 3-1 thanks to goals from Simeon Bird, Jonty Robinson and Timmy Smyth. Charlie Ellison pulled one back for Richmond but it wasn’t enough.
Elsewhere, Teddington were 4-2 winners at Bromley and Beckenham.
Men's Conference North
University of Durham had a game in hand over Loughborough Students and they successfully used it to close the gap on the leaders of the Men’s Conference North with a 3-1 win over Olton and West Warwicks.
The game burst into life in the 27th minute with Ed James scoring for Olton and Jerry Smith notching for Durham.
But it was Durham who took the win as Jack Waller gave them the lead in the 45th minute and Smith hit his second on 59 minutes. They are now five points below Loughborough.
In the only other game of the day, Sheffield Hallam took a 3-2 win over Yorkshire rivals Wakefield. Luca Lixi, James Gunthorpe and Liam Brown scored for Hallam with Wakefield’s goals coming through Sam Shute and Dan Berry.
Men’s Hockey League (Saturday, February 6 2016):
Men’s Premier Division: Beeston 2, Reading 3; East Grinstead 5, Cannock 2; Holcombe 3, Wimbledon 1; Surbiton 3, Brooklands MU 5.
Men's Conference West: Indian Gymkhana 0, University of Birmingham 1; University of Exeter 4, Chichester Priory Park 3.
Men's Conference North: Olton & West Warwicks 1, University of Durham 3; Wakefield 2, Sheffield Hallam 3.
Men's Conference East: Bromley and Beckenham 2, Teddington 4; Southgate 3, Richmond 1.
England Hockey Board Media release
Strathmore Scorpions sting Mombasa Club to remain second
By BRIAN YONGA
Strathmore Scorpions’ Carol Njoki in action during a past league match at City Park. PHOTO | MARTIN MUKANGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP
Strathmore University's Scorpions hammered visiting Mombasa Sports Club (MSC) 5-0 in a Kenya Hockey Union (KHU) women’s national league match at the City Park Stadium on Saturday.
A Rachel Ousa brace set the university side on their way before further goals from captain Carol Njoki, Kenya international Gilly Okumu and Judy Apondi made sure of the result.
Scorpions coach Meshack Senge was pleased with his team’s results but noted his team could have scored many goals if not for their wastefulness.
“The new players are adapting well to our system and today (Saurday) we were able to build from the back which is how I want them to play, overall we deserved the win,” Senge told Sunday Nation Sport.
Scorpions were looking to bounce back from last weekend’s 2-0 loss to champions Telkom Orange, a result that ended their title ambitions. MSC who had lost the reverse fixture 6-0 kept out the university side for large spells of the first half with some brilliant defensive display.
They were however breached in the 28th minute when Ousa poked home the opener to give her team the slim lead going into the break. Okumu added the second five minutes after the restart firing low past MSC keeper Vicky Subwa.
Ten minutes later, Njoki who had earlier missed a glorious opportunity, got on the score sheet finishing off an Yvonne Karanja penalty corner. MSC created little attack with their strikers unable to get any service from the midfielders.
They finished the match with no short corners as compared to Scorpions’ five and a host of missed opportunities to add to the final score.
The skipper scored her second of the match four minutes to the end, bundling home Yvonne Karanja’s cross before Apondi scored the fifth a minute to the end to give her side the emphatic win.
“We need to improve on our fitness levels so that we can avoid tiring early in matches, we hope to do well in tomorrow’s (today) game against Daystar,” said MSC coach Saida Okwemba.
In the men’s national league, Dedan Kimathi University drew 1-1 with Technical University of Kenya (TUK) at the same venue. Midfielder Elijah Magiya gave TUK the lead in the eighth minute through a field goal but Joseph Ndung’u levelled for Kimathi in the 23rd minute to rescue a point for his team in the university derby.
Dar Hockey Academy holds match to mark Kashmir Day
By Ijaz Chaudhry
LAHORE: February 5 is observed as a Kashmir Day to express solidarity with the oppressed people of occupied Kashmir who are under subjugation of India for almost 70 years. Dar Hockey Academy has become the most vibrant of all the hockey bodies in this country inclusive of even provincial associations and big departments. Established in late 2006 with the aim of grooming talent for Pakistan’s national teams, the academy has become a conveyer belt for quality talent for Pakistan’s age group as well as the national senior sides. The academy’s officials are always looking for an opportunity to have some meaningful activity for its colts. To mark the Kashmir Day, Dar HA held a match at the national hockey stadium Lahore between two sides made up from the academy boys.
The teams were named after Pakistan’s hockey legends Munir Dar and Tanvir Dar. Munir played for country from 1956-66. A member of Pakistan’s gold medallist team of 1960 Olympics as well as of the national sides which won silvers at the 1956 and 1964 Olympiads, he also captained his country. It was Munir Dar who had suggested the very idea of the Dar Academy – his dream. Munir’s younger brother Tanvir too won an Olympic gold (1968). He was also the top scorer when Pakistan lifted the inaugural World Cup in 1971. The brothers were not only solid full backs but also the most fearsome strikers of penalty corners in international hockey.
To induce true competitive spirit into the match, the academy officials made a wise decision. Munir Dar XI comprised of the senior lot: the boys who have appeared for the national senior/ age group teams or attended the national camp. Tanvir Dar XI was selected from the younger boys; part of the academy only for a year or two. The arrangement meant the pressure was on the Munir Dar XI. With Olympic gold medallist Khawaja Zakauddin (1960) and Taqueer Dar (1984), also the founder president of the academy, among the crowd, it turned out to be a very keenly contested tie with pendulum swinging all the time.
The underdogs Tanvir Dar XI surprised everyone by going ahead courtesy a neat finish by Ajmal Butt who availed a cross from the left. Stunned by the early setback, Munir Dar XI recovered quickly to get the equalizer. It was a superb solo run by Bilal Qadir – among the most exciting young talent in Pakistan. The nimble footed forward waltzed past three defenders to net the best goal of the day. Soon the senior boys were ahead. A right wing attack culminated with Adeel calmly and expertly putting the ball into the goal. This was followed by a period of great pressure by Munir Dar XI only to be denied by opposition’s brilliant goal keeper Waqar who executed several excellent saves. Having repelled the storm, Tanvir Dar XI regained the rhythm and notched two goals in rapid succession. The first was a remarkable strike from Ghazanfar. Displaying extraordinary maturity, the teenager found the far side of the board through an angular flat reverse shot from the top of the circle. A few minutes later, they were 3-2 in front. Waleed utilised a pass standing just a hand shaking distance from the goal keeper. With not much time left, Munir Dar XI had a game in hand. But the experience bailed them out. Brilliant Bilal Majeed after covering good ground from the right side found the target from a tight angle. Now, both the sides looked for the winner. However, Munir Dar XI had the final say. In dying minutes, M Imran scored off a penalty corner to enable his side emerge victorious 4-3. A special spectacle on a special day. It was heartening to see the novices of Tanvir Dar XI putting up such a resolute display. The Dar HA reservoir is filled up to the brim all the time.
The Daily Times